Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 48 Number 16, May 26, 2018 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Workers Movement

Probation Staff in Protest against Pay and
Conditions and in Defence of the Probation Service

Probation staff day protest, May 18 2018

Probation staff in England and Wales working for the National Probation Service (NPS) and the 21 privatised community rehabilitation companies (CRCs) staged a day of protest on May 18. They were protesting against the insulting 2017 pay awards and the lack of progress over pay reform in 2018. The protest took place following on from the TUC's march "A New Deal for Working People". Thus the issue of pay was being raised in the context of the privatisation and fragmentation of the probation service, which has led to quite unmanageable workloads.

The unions involved - NAPO and Unison - point out that the 18,000 probation staff have been treated more harshly than other public sector workers, and have received just a single 1% pay increase since 2009.

Furthermore, the impact of so-called "reforms" has been disastrous for the service and the people working in it. The government's Transforming Rehabilitation reforms have seen a once high-performing service abolished and replaced with two new partly privatised bodies. NAPO and Unison called for these reforms to be halted in the public interest.[1]

TUC's march "A New Deal for Working People", May 12, 2018

Probation workers manage some of the most dangerous offenders in the community. They oversee their rehabilitation, and supervise and monitor them to keep local communities safe. Yet earlier this year, a report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Probation revealed that the privatised services were "overstretched" and "struggling" to enforce community sentences being handed down by the courts.

Unison national officer Ben Priestley said: "The government's attempt at reform has been nothing short of disastrous. Last year, ministers bailed out the failing privatised companies to the tune of £342m. Yet they can't find a penny to increase pay for dedicated staff keeping the probation service going in extremely challenging circumstances. Money set aside for a pay rise was reallocated to the CRC bail out and a prison staff pay increase. No wonder probation workers feel so devalued and demoralised. It's high time they got a decent pay rise."

NAPO general secretary Ian Lawrence said: "Our members have yet again been side lined for a pay rise whilst propping up the private companies. Probation staff face ever-increasing workloads, increased stress, failing ICT [information and communication technologies] systems and a nine-year pay freeze. It is wholly unacceptable and the MOJ [Ministry of Justice] faces yet more cuts over the next few years with our members being taken for granted. Probation needs a pay rise and a full pay reform as a matter of urgency."

(Union News, Napo)


[1] The background to the "Transforming Rehabilitation" reforms is given in a document published in 2014 by NAPO and Unison, entitled "The Truth About Transforming Rehabilitation". It says:

The Conservative-led coalition government published its 'Transforming Rehabilitation' proposals in early 2013. The plans would enable for the first time the supervision of offenders leaving prison following short term sentences, but would abolish the 35 Probation Trusts in England and Wales and replace them with two new delivery bodies:

The 17,000 probation staff who previously worked for the Probation Trusts were forcibly transferred to either the NPS or one of the CRCs on 1 June this year. What has followed has been a catalogue of errors in terms of staff assignment, mismatch between workload, staffing levels and staff location, compromised risk management, reduced IT capability, increased bureaucracy and a huge rise in the use of temporary and sessional staff. High performing Probation Trusts have been replaced with poorly performing replacements; none of this the fault of the probation staff themselves.

To compound all of these woes, the CRCs are due to be sold off to the private sector later this year without proper regard being given to the public interest of such a controversial outsourcing so late in the life of this Parliament.
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